L'Italo-Americano

italoamericano-digital-1-124-2019

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THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2019 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 T echnology is the passport of today's globalized and h y p e r - c o n n e c t e d w orld. It's the instrument we entrust scientific and social progress to, because well being is one of the most immediate consequences we expect from advances in knowledge, and also one of the reasons we invest capitals and human res ources . It's an es s ential con dition of our everyday life, since the times when we've started turning on the light in our homes with a switch. The very fact the world seems to stop when there is a power cut, the smartphone runs out of battery, the internet in unavailable, TV doesn't work or the elevator is out of order, is enough to make us realise how dependent we are on all that the industrial revolution gave us. When it comes to scientific research, Italy doesn't shine. Just to give you an idea, it has obtained the lowest number of patents between 2011 and 2016, both in the field of biotechnologies and those of ICT and nanotechnologies: only 337, 305 and 25 obtained, against the 13.000, 38.000 and 760 of the USA. When it comes to the ability of creating knowledge and innovation, several studies show how the relationship between expenditure and GDP is low, giving to Italy a non-significant position in Europe. Moreover, things have been getting worse because of the decreasing number of people with scientific degrees and, at the same time, the increase in relevance of the brain drain phenomenon. We're investing too little in research and, crucially, in what could really make the difference: human capital. Because it's people who can change the situation and revolutionize habits and epochs. It's people who can come out with ideas able to modify the way we produce, think and live. Technology is expected to make production, analytical and knowledge processes quicker, not to bring us cognitive progress. The cloud, the internet of things, the digital that today is so much a part of our lives, are not transformative technologies: they can't change the world on their own. They are solutions that can improve businesses and lives, if they are structured, adapted, and manipulated so that their potential can emerge. Artificial intelligence, neural networks and Big Data have been certainly regenerating all productive and social sectors, but we should always remember that technology is at the service of creative processes and not the other We must learn to appreciate the "Belpaese of science" From the director way around. Artificial or digital intelligence cannot make a project successful, it's the ability to use it as an instrument to value the knowledge we have that does it: creativity is the only, true decisive force at play here.This is why a national effort is needed to promote the theme of competences: Italy must start to believe and invest in its scientific potential and in its researchers. This is a real cultural challenge, that starts with the necessity to recognize and promote ourselves as the "Belpaese of science." For far too long we've been thinking of Italy as a country of Arts and Beauty, rather than one of science and scientists, even if scientific process has always been a vibrant reality of our peninsula. Reading some names and thinking of their inheritance should be sufficient to see how true this is: from Leonardo to Galileo, from Lorenzo Respighi to Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, from Alessandro Volta to Enrico Fermi, from Guglielmo Marconi to Carlo Rubbia, from Rita Levi Montalcini to Renato Dulbecco, from Riccardo Giacconi to Margherita Hack, from Fabiola Gianotti to Nadia Pastrone. Italy continues to create talents and the level we could reach is extremely high, if Nature placed two Italian scientists among the best 11 minds in the world, in an article entitled The World at their Feet. Silvia Marchesan, organic chemist at the Università di Trieste, and Giorgio Vacchiano, ecology scientist and the Università Statale di Milano, "are truly leaving a sign in today's science," the prestigious magazine writes. Someone who already left his sign is certainly Federico Faggin, physicist from Vicenza, inventor of the first microprocessor and pioneer of Silicon Valley, where he has been living since 1968. An illustrious Italian-American to whom we dedicate our cover today. His philosophical contribution - yes, you read that right - is the focus of the reflection he proposed in our interview. Because if it's true we've been trained or got used to discern science from philosophy, religion from physics, it's possibly science and physics that can bring it all back together. Throughout his career, Faggin has been lead by the dream of creating a living, thinking computer. What he came to realize is, more prosaically, that a computer will never be a living creature, because the essence of knowledge is the ability to perceive dynamically and holistically, and to learn through feelings and sensations. But computers are reductive systems, whose conscience cannot get deeper by adding transistors. The most we can do is to take its "cells" apart, put them back together and reprogram them again. This means the human capital will always be superior to the machine, provided we invest on human knowledge. Simone Schiavinato, Director NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS

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